The 2014 season for Lake Michigan’s only coal-powered passenger and car ferry comes to a close Sunday, signaling the end of the controversial practice of dumping coal ash into the Great Lake. When the vessel resumes operations in 2015, it will no longer release the waste material into those waters.
The SS Badger, the last coal-fired steamship still operating in the United States, began service in 1953. From May to October, it ferries riders between Ludington, Michigan, and Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Until recently, it also dumped about 500 tons of coal ash per season into Lake Michigan. To put that into perspective, all other Great Lakes freighters combined discharge just 89 tons of coal, limestone and iron waste annually.